The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of Macmillan
This is the first book in the Rose series.
Fiona Finnegan may be a poor Irish girl living in Whitechapel, but she has big plans with her sweetheart, Joe Bristow. Together, they are determined to save enough money to marry and open a shop of their own, something that can take them away from a neighborhood where Jack the Ripper roams the streets after dark. When Joe takes a better paying job, it pains them to be apart, but seems a means to an end, until three tragedies rip Fiona’s life asunder and she is forced to face life on her own, with only her young brother by her side.
The Tea Rose is not a short book, and it is just the first in a trilogy of equally long books. Thus it is only to be expected that there is quite a bit of initial set up and characterization. This resulted, however, in a slow first 100 pages or so. Fiona was engaging the entire time, but her poor-but-getting-by family and her dreams of a future with Joe went a bit longer than would be optimal. Around page 100, though, things begin happening, and Fiona really begins to show her mettle and the story takes flight. Fiona is a strong character, without being too overly modern. She is certainly bold and willing to break out of societal molds, but never comes across as anachronistic.
Once it gets going, The Tea Rose is completely engaging late 19th-century historical fiction, an epic that captures the imagination. I cannot wait to read the rest of the series.
If you are already a fan of this series, the third book, The Wild Rose, was just released by Hyperion Books. Buy it from:
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.